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HomeGuidelines > 5. Reduce cognitive burdens. > 5g. Let users print or save the entire document.          





Audience Fit

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5g. Let users print or save the entire document at once, to avoid reading any more onscreen.

  • Avoid confusing people by offering a dozen little screens, when some people might just want to print or save the whole article, for later.
  • If the text extends more than a few screens, or appears on several different pages, offer a link to the complete document, formatted for printing.
  • If the text is really a long paper document, posted online, do not break it up into a set of chunks; just offer it in a gigantic HTML file, set up for printing, and, perhaps, offer a PDF file for downloading.










For printing or saving, provide a separate link to a complete document.

Few web users spend time reading long passages of text on-screen. Most users will save long documents to disk or print them rather than read extensive material online.Lynch & Horton (1999).

Since some users prefer to read hard copy, provide an easy way for users to print related sets of pages. If your site is divided into sections, you may want to give users controls so they can print these sections as well as individual pages. IBM (1999)

Long, linear-text documents really belong back on paper. Your web site is just an archive for them.Kilian (1999)

See bibliography: IBM (1999), Kilian (1999), Levine(1997), Lynch & Horton (1999).


Other ways to make your text easier to understand:

5a. Reduce the number of clauses per sentence.

5b. Blow up nominalizations and noun trains.

5c. Watch out for ambiguous phrases a user might have to debate.

5d. Surface the agent and action, so users don't have to guess.

5e. Make a positive statement.

5f. Reduce scrolling.





Audience Fit
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Believe or not, some people enjoy print more than screen text.
To learn Studying, and examining, and questioning often go better on paper. Make that easy for your students.
To act Perhaps they are going to act later. Let them print and save the whole set of instructions.
To be aware Perhaps your visitors will want to contemplate what you say in a quiet moment, off the computer.
To get close to people Allowing people to save and print the whole document is a courtesy.


Reflecting on Thoughtlessness

A good style should show no sign of effort.  What is written should seem a happy accident.
--W. Somerset Maugham

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
--Samuel Johnson

People think I can teach them style.  What stuff it is.  Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can.  That is the only secret to style.
--Matthew Arnold

Resources on thoughtlessness

Taking a Position on Thoughtlessness

Heuristic Online Text (H. O. T.) Evaluation of Cognitive Burdens


Don't make me think.


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